Thursday, November 13, 2008

Parlor Game: Fictionary.

   Fictionary, also known as the Dictionary Game or simply Dictionary, is a word game in which players guess the definition of an obscure word.
   A turn consists of one player picking a word from the dictionary and each other player composing a fake definition. A round is completed when each player has selected a word to be guessed.
   Players earn points (1) by guessing the correct definition of a word, (2) by composing a fake definition that other players guess is the correct one, and (3) as Picker, selecting a genuine word that no players vote for.
   The winner is the player who has earned the most points after a pre-determined number of rounds.

The Supplies You Will Need:
  1. A large, preferably unabridged dictionary, or even ready access to an online dictionary.
  2. A pencil, pen or other writing implement for each player
  3. Notecards or identical pieces of paper for each player
The Order of Play In Fictionary: Individual house rules may vary when playing Fictionary, but play usually proceeds like this:

   One player, the Picker for the turn, chooses an obscure word from the dictionary and announces and spells it to the other players. The chosen word should be one that no other player knows. If a player is familiar with the chosen word, he or she should say so and the picker should choose a different word. (Cheating only gains one point for the cheater anyway.)
   If a word has more than one definition listed, the Picker privately chooses which one to use, but in such a case must specify, "X, when it does not mean thus-and-so."
   Each player writes a crafty and credible definition of the word, initials it, and submits it to the word picker. The Picker shuffles the definitions, including their own, which is the correct one. As definitions are handed to him, the picker should check them over to ensure that they can read the handwriting and to clarify any questions. (Stumbling over or misreading a definition is usually a sign that it's not the correct one -- unless the picker is trying to bluff.)
   Once all definitions have been handed in, the picker reads the list aloud, once. The Picker may read the definitions in any order. On a second reading, each other player in turn then votes for the definition he or she believes is correct. Because the picker selected the word and knows the definition, the picker does not vote.
   One variation allows a player to vote for the definition he submitted, although he doesn't get points for doing so. (This can encourage other people to vote for that definition as well, and the player would get those points.) Another variation does not allow a player to vote for his own definition.

Other Versions of Fictionary: The board games Balderdash, Dictionary Dabble, Flummoxed, and Weird Wordz are based on Fictionary. Also, the board game Wise and Otherwise is based on the same concept, but the Picker randomly chooses a quotation, reads the beginning, and others try to create realistic endings to the quote.
Fictionary is featured as a segment on the weekly US National Public Radio quiz show Says You!, where it is known as the bluffing round.
   In the UK, Call My Bluff is a popular daytime BBC television panel game based on Fictionary. Two teams of three players (journalists, B and C list celebrities, etc) compete. A player from one team has to decide between the three proposed definitions provided by the opposing team. If the first player correctly identifies the true definition of the word, they earn their team a point. If they are wrong, the team which provided the definitions are awarded the point. Call My Bluff was first aired in October 1965, with Robin Ray as chair. Presenter, Robert Robinson, chaired it for many years. As of 2003 the programme is chaired by Fiona Bruce.
   Several US game shows have used the concept as a basis for their games: please see Call My Bluff, Take My Word For It, Wordplay, and Balderdash.
   In Japan, Tahoiya (たほいや?) featured the game under the same name. The 30 minutes late night game show aired on Fuji TV in 1993, and was rebroadcasted on Fuji TV 739 satellite channel in 2008. Tahoiya, originally meaning "a cabin used for boar hunting", was one of the chosen word in early game play.
   One variation uses a book of assorted poems instead of a dictionary. A rhyming quatrain is chosen by the picker. The first three lines are read and a fake fourth line must be made up by the other players which acts like the fake definitions.
   A variety of Fictionary called Dixonary has been on-line for over 1940 rounds, for the first fifteen years on CompuServe in its Tapcis Forum. It is believed that this game is the longest-running on-line game as it enters its seventeenth year. At the end of May, 2005, the game moved to when CompuServe disconnected the forum. Since May 2007 it is played on the Dixonary Google Group but is also accessible at

Scoring in Fictionary: Players earn one point for voting for the correct definition, and one point for each vote cast for the definition they wrote. The Picker earns three points if no one selects the correct definition. Play then proceeds with the dictionary going to another player, which starts a new turn. A full circuit of the dictionary constitutes a round.

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